Saturday, November 16, 2013

Ned Kelly's Last Stand: The Donald Sutherland Letter.

"It's no use blaming anyone now.... It is not that I fear death. I fear it as little as to drink a cup of tea. On the evidence that has been given, no juryman could have given any other verdict. That is my opinion. But, as I say, if I'd examined the witnesses, I'd had shown matters in a different light... For my own part, I don't care one straw about my life, nor the result of the trial; and I know very well from the stories I've been told, of how I am spoken of — that the public at large execrate my name... But I don't mind, for I am the last that carries public favour or dreads the public frown. Let the hand of the law strike me down if it will; but I ask my story be heard and considered." -  Ned Kelly (The Bathurst Letter, 14 March 1879)

Letter detailing Ned Kelly's last stand to go on public display in Melbourne.

"A 133-year-old letter describing the final stages of the Kelly Gang's last stand at Glenrowan is about to go on public display for the first time.
The letter was written by a young bank clerk named Donald Sutherland and was sent to his parents back in Scotland. Sutherland had rushed to Glenrowan from the nearby town of Oxley to see the end of the siege."

"Sutherland arrived shortly after Ned Kelly was captured and saw the bushranger lying wounded on a stretcher.

Ned does not at all look like a murderer and bushranger - he is a very powerful man, aged about 27, black hair and beard with a soft mild looking face and eyes - his mouth being the only wicked portion of the face...
I was really sorry for him to see him lying pierced by bullets and still showing no signs of pain. His three sisters were there also, Mrs Skillion, Kate Kelly and a younger one. Kate was sitting at his head with her arms round his neck while the others were crying in a mournful strain."

"The particular part of the letter that really stands out is the very human family element; Kelly lying wounded on the stretcher his three sisters around him," he said.
"They are crying, the brother and the three sisters together after all these momentous events just happened."

Historian Alex McDermott has written extensively on the Kelly Gang and says most accounts of the Glenrowan siege are from official sources or Kelly sympathisers. He says Sutherland's letter offers a new perspective.
"To take the siege of Glenrowan, one of the most scrutinised events in Australian history, one of the most researched events in Australian history and then have someone sort of tap you on the shoulder and say, 'Oh by the way, there is another account no-one knew about it, it just came up,' it's a gem," he said.

Iron man: the story of Ned Kelly's last stand.


"Unbeknown to them, Joe Byrne has already been shot dead, while Ned Kelly, though wounded and bleeding badly, had slipped through the police cordon in the darkness, and after resting, is capable of making his escape. But …

Can Ned really leave his brother, Dan, and Steve Hart alone? He cannot. With his last remaining strength, just before seven o'clock, Ned raises himself and dons his helmet once more. With a supreme effort, he manages to stand and starts to move back towards the inn …"

"Shocked, disbelieving, the worthy constable looks closer to see the most extraordinary thing he has ever seen in his life. Steadily, the figure approaches, and, after first realising it is a man, Arthur then thinks it must be 'some madman in the horrors who had put some nail keg on his head'. Obviously, it is someone intent on storming the hotel under the protection of the headgear, so he sings out to him, 'Keep back, you damned fool!' But still the figure keeps coming …"

"Oh my Lord! After a sleepless night, in which the police have already narrowly escaped death, after all the shooting and all the screams, all the fears that have stalked their night with the promise that one lucky shot from the inn will see them breathe their last, now this.
Still the figure keeps coming.
Is it even human?"

Arthur fires a third shot, which misses entirely, and still the figure keeps moving, the right leg forward first, and dragging the left one behind.
Cries ring out as the police continue firing, but all to no effect.
''My God, who is that?'' railway guard Jesse Dowsett calls to the man nearest him, Constable Patrick Healy.
''He is a madman!'' comes one response. Soon there are others …
''Look out, boys, he is the bunyip!''
''You can't kill it!''

''You had better surrender, old man,'' he says bravely, like David before Goliath with a mask on. ''Throw up your hands.''
''Never, while I have a shot left,'' Ned replies.
This makes the young railway guard really angry. For now Dowsett approaches even closer and, from a distance where he simply cannot miss, shoots the figure in the head, asking rhetorically, ''How do you like that, old man?''
But when the smoke from the shot clears, the figure is still standing, pointing a revolver at Dowsett. ''How do you like this?'' says Ned, as he fires back in turn, and for the rest of his days Dowsett will never know how the bushranger missed him.

In one stunned moment, Ned's attackers can confirm for the first time just who they had been fighting, and it is Steele who gathers himself first to proclaim it. ''By heavens, it is Ned,'' he exults.
Source: Peter FitzSimons, "Iron man: the story of Ned Kelly's last stand.", (Sydney Morning Herald, November 3, 2013)

Update November 12, 2014:

A LEADING Queensland psychiatrist has diagnosed legendary bushranger Ned Kelly as a violent and vindictive psychopath — and dismissed his famous last words ‘such is life’ as a myth.

Ned Kelly’s last words were not ‘such is life’, Queensland psychiatrist and Melbourne historian claim.

My comment: I don't buy this at all. Kelly was not only articulate (see his Jerilderie Letter. ), but staunchly outspoken about what he felt were injustices. "Psychopaths" don't typically do this, issuing pleas for justice to be done. Psychopaths and sociopaths just kill, and make no effort to justify their actions.

Just my opinion. 

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